Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 10/9/17

This week, the students continued their study of the U.S. Constitution by focusing on a particular amendment and researching its history. This research supports the skits they are writing about different amendments. We also took a closer look at state government this week and combed through the database of laws and bills being considered by the Michigan legislature. Students learned to navigate the database and searched for bills by sponsor, by category, and by keyword. They then carefully parsed the text of the bills themselves in order to determine what actions the bill would require or prohibit. This work is preparing them to develop proposals on issues of importance to them in the Michigan Youth Caucus. The proposals with the most votes will become part of the Michigan Student Caucus platform that students will present to legislators in Lansing in December.


As part of the MSC project, nine of the 7-8s attended a town hall meeting on campus at UM. The speaker was from the Ginsberg Center at UM (a resources for UM affiliated people and groups who want to engage in service learning) and she spoke about the ways in which state and local governments are working to address community needs in Washtenaw County. The SK students were engaged participants in the discussion and eager to share their ideas and questions.


Eighth graders also started their visits to local high schools this week with an afternoon at Greenhills. We are visiting many of the schools in Washtenaw County in order to learn about the different options and prepare students for their next steps.

Weekly overview - week of 10/2/17

This week, the 7-8s continued their Michigan Student Caucus media artifacts. Each student has chosen a topic that is of importance to young people in Michigan. On Wednesday, we were joined by two of the graduate students from U-M, Cate and Eve, who are helping to facilitate the online discussion as part of their course work. They spent the afternoon helping students to think through their topics and focus their efforts on their media artifacts.


As part of our continued study of American government, we learned about the structure of our representative democracy (on a federal and state level) with a particular focus on the legislature. We then looked at the concept of “gerrymandering” and discussed the Wisconsin gerrymandering case that is currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Later in the week, we turned our focus to the Constitution itself. After drafting a class constitution, we went through an overview of the document itself. Students were then ready to wade into the actual text. After starting to read the document, one thing led to another and the result is that a student suggested responding to the text with a comedic skit (or several). Soon after that, students were off working alone, in pairs, or in small groups to write a series of skits and songs about the Constitution (some Convention-inspired, some amendment-inspired). At some point in the near future, we’ll have information about a performance. Stay tuned.


The 7-8s also started the Our Whole Lives program this week. We’re looking forward to continuing the OWL program for rest of the school year.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 9/25/17



Happy Banned Books week! The 7-8s started the week with a celebration of intellectual freedom and a discussion about censorship. They also continued their work on their Michigan Student Caucus posts. They have been both crafting their own posts and replying to the posts of others (students from our class and students from other schools in Michigan). The next step is to create a media artifact (podcast, poster, infographic, etc.) to teach others about a particular problem of concern to them (and other young people in Michigan). To support their understanding of how government works, we’ve been reading about different types of governments (throughout the world and throughout history) and, in our country, how state governments function.

We've also been thinking about how new people (and, more broadly, groups of people) become part of the United States. We read and analyzed a poem related to this subject: Amendment” by Christina Davis and visited a poignant exhibit of photos and narratives by refugees who have resettled in Ann Arbor. We're looking forward to returning to this theme throughout the year.

The joy of fall that feels like summer

A very professorial J.M.

Grateful to live in a city that celebrates the stories of others

Rope making demonstration (W.S. made a model of the tools we used at Tillers) during morning meeting

More morning meeting

Even more morning meeting

Another group sharing their experiences at Tillers with the rest of the SK community



Monday, September 25, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 9/18/17

The 7-8s have been busy diving into their Michigan Student Caucus projects. Each student chose a topic area from a list of nine broad issues  (such as environmental quality, transportation, juvenile justice, and K-12 educational achievement, for example). Then, within their broad areas, they are now narrowing their research in order to focus on a particular problem within that area. They are contributing to online discussions on these topics and starting to create media artifacts in order to teach others about their problem and potential solutions. To deepen this work, students have also been learning about the foundations of government, starting with the philosophies of Hobbes and Locke and moving into the concept of “sovereignty.”

They also presented, in pairs, their analyses of selected poems about poetry. They identified serious, comic, and ironic elements of each poem and articulated their own definitions of poetry. We will continue to read poetry, write, and recite poetry throughout the year.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall overnight to Tillers International

On Monday, September 11, we left SK for parts unknown. Well, actually, thankfully, we knew exactly where we were going. We were headed to Scotts, Michigan, to visit Tillers International.
But still, we didn't exactly know what to expect. We'd been talking about the history of agriculture in the United States since the first day of school and we'd been thinking about the ways in which people shape technology and technology shapes people. All of this this thinking and reading prepared us for our two days at Tillers.

On Monday, we spent time learning how to plow a field with draft horses, forge metal in the blacksmith shop, and prepare wood for barrels in the wood shop. We also made our own rope, which we brought back to SK and are happy to show off. On Tuesday, we visited the farm museum (containing over 4,000 historic farm implements!) and cleaned out some barns. Kids were delightfully enthusiastic about the cleaning (and the animals we met in the barns, including a very friendly cat and some marginally friendly turkeys). On Tuesday afternoon, we returned to SK.

In addition to all of the hands-on learning and philosophical discussions about the ways in which we use tools, we made time for a considerable amount of fun. We LOVED the Cook's Mill Guest House because it was a) beautiful, b) had secret passageways, and c) had secret passageways (!!!). We also enjoyed cooking and eating all of our meals together.

In short, the fall overnight was a tremendous success. Huge thanks to our friends at Tillers International for being such awesome hosts.




























Friday, September 8, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 9/5/17


We started off the year with a new space, new friends, and an all-around wonderful week. One of the lenses through which we are approaching our learning this year is that of technology as a tool for social, political, and cultural change. As such, next week, we are headed to the Cook’s Mill Guest House at Tillers International farm in Scotts, Michigan to take classes on traditional skills (such as woodworking, blacksmithing, and ploughing with draft animals). In preparation for our trip, we looked at a very brief overview of agricultural history in America and examined the relationship between world events and technological innovations. Based on our observations and questions, we dove into a fishbowl discussion on the merits of technology and how different tools or “advancements” have improved lives (or not) throughout history. This thought exercise will set us up to get working with the new tools in the Innovation Lab later this year.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year

Dear readers,

Welcome to what is sure to be a banner year for SK 7-8s.

Eighth grade girls (how did that happen?)

Observations on a very brief overview of American agriculture

Kaz leads an important discussion on pizza toppings (seriously, we were voting on what type of pizzas to make on our overnight next week)

Fishbowl discussion on the merits of technology

More fish(bowl)ing

Inside the fishbowl is for debating and active listening; outside the fishbowl is for note taking and active listening

Fishbowls for the win

What does your ideal classroom look, sound, and feel like?

Discovery: our ideal learning environments have a lot in common (but also many differences)

What's going on in the world and how do you know? (an introduction to our weekly study of current events)

To a wonderful year ahead,

Rachel